Breaking Barriers: Overcoming Gender Discrimination Among Women Oncologists

News
Article

Gender disparities among oncology health care professionals have significant consequences for both the physicians and the patients they treat.

Women oncologists reported higher levels of gender and race or ethnicity-based discrimination compared with their male counterparts, according to data from a study conducted at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.1 The findings are to be presented at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference where Coral Olazagasti, MD, will be joined by other collaborators to raise awareness of the importance of representation and overcoming inequities related to diversity in health care.2

female physicians in oncology

Statistics show that despite women accounting for more than 70% of the global health care workforce, only 25% in the United States and Canada hold leadership positions. Image Credits: © AkuAku - stock.adobe.com

Historically, women practicing in medicine have faced significant barriers, resulting in compensation inequities, decreased access to leadership opportunities and career advancements, harassment, and lack of representation on medical boards. Further, statistics show that despite women accounting for more than 70% of the global health care workforce, only 25% in the United States and Canada hold leadership positions.3 In response to these disparities, Olazagasti and her colleagues created the first cross-sectional study assessing gender disparities in the oncology field in the United States for non-US international medical graduates (IMGs) and Puerto Rican medical graduates (PRMGs).1

Olazagasti and colleagues assessed multiple categories representing various aspects of the experiences, motivations, or challenges faced by IMGs and PRMGs. The study authors assessed 7 main categories including reason for migration: family, reason for migration: pursuing financial gains, new culture: traditions, new culture: dress code, discrimination based on race-ethnicity during training, discrimination based on race/ethnicity during independent practice, and discrimination based on gender during independent practice. To best interpret results, the authors used a 2 sample Wilcoxon test for ordered categorical variables and Fisher’s exact test for nominal categorical variables.1

The study findings were collected from 97 IMGs and PRMGs through an anonymous online survey using Survey Monkey. Participants were recruited from September through December 2023 via email or social media and were trained in either a residency or fellowship program in the United Sates.1

The survey results revealed that women experienced higher rates of gender discrimination during training (53.2% vs 4.5%, P <.001) and independent practice (57.6% vs 3.6%, P <.001) compared to men. Women also experienced a higher likelihood of facing racial or ethnic discrimination than men during training (69.6% vs 38.1%; P =.005).1 Additionally, 65% of women oncologists reported more culture shock and increased difficulty adapting to American traditions vs men.2

Since the study relied on self-reported data, further investigations into gender disparities among women and men in oncology is needed. Olazagasti noted that results may differ based on how women and men perceive discrimination and the process of adaptation to cultural differences.2

Gender disparities among oncology health care professionals (HCPs) have significant consequences for both the physicians and the patients they treat. Discrimination and gender biases in medicine impede women oncologists’ career trajectories and job satisfaction, potentially impacting the quality of care they can provide. Patients from underrepresented and marginalized communities may also face unique challenges due to lack of representation in HCPs, struggling to see themselves in their providers. This may contribute to a patients’ perceived lack of understanding or cultural competence from HCPs who do not share their background, leading to gaps in communication, affecting treatment decisions and health outcomes.3

Despite recognition of gender-based disparities in oncology, continued acknowledgments and investigations are crucial for accelerating greater changes for women across academic, private practice, and industry domains in oncology.

“Gender equality is not just a moral imperative,” said Donna Grande, CEO of the American College of Preventative Medicine in an article published by Chief Healthcare Executive®. “It's a crucial driver of better health outcomes and will make a stronger health care system.”3

REFERENCES

1. Olazagasti C, Villa Celi C, et al. Assessing gender disparities in oncology: less talk, more action. Presented at 2024 ASCO Annual Meeting. May 31 to June 4, 2024. Accessed May 28, 2024. https://meetings.asco.org/abstracts-presentations/232931

2. Internationally trained female oncologists face many discrimination challenges in the US. EurekAlert!. May 23, 2024. Accessed May 28, 2024. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1045883

3. Grande D. Breaking barriers: advancing gender equality in healthcare leadership | viewpoint. Chief Healthcare Executive. February 19, 2024. Accessed May 28, 2024. https://www.chiefhealthcareexecutive.com/view/breaking-barriers-advancing-gender-equality-in-healthcare-leadership-viewpoint

Related Videos
Image credit:  Gorodenkoff | stock.adobe.com
Pharmacist and Patient in Pharmacy | Image Credit: Gorodenkoff - stock.adobe.com
Catalyst Trial, Diabetes, Hypertension | Image Credit: grinny - stock.adobe.com
Image Credit: © Anastasiia - stock.adobe.com
Various healthy foods -- Image credit: New Africa | stock.adobe.com
LGBTQIA+ pride -- Image credit: lazyllama | stock.adobe.com
Image Credit: © Анастасія Стягайло - stock.adobe.com
Modern pharmacy building facade with large window showcasing the interior, as seen from the street view, promoting a welcoming atmosphere for customers. Frontal view. Generative AI - Image credit: Karrrtinki | stock.adobe.com
hematological cancer/Image Credit: © nikola-master - stock.adobe.com
breast cancer treatment/Image Credit: © Siam - stock.adobe.com
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.